An Aberdeen man has been sentenced to 15 years in prison with five years suspended on a charge of vehicular homicide.
Carson Maunu, 19, pleaded guilty to the felony charge in September. It was one of three felonies originally filed after a June 4 wreck. Maunu was driving a Dodge Ram pickup that crossed into the southbound lane of 387th Avenue and collided with Casey Kulm, 27, of Groton. Kulm was driving a 2020 Harley-Davidson motorcycle, according to information from the South Dakota Department of Safety. He died at the scene.
Prior to sentencing Friday, several members of the Kulm family spoke in court. Describing the loss of a family member who was three weeks away from getting married, they said Kulm was a man who would give the shirt off his back for others. They said he discovered he wanted to be an emergency medical technician when he came upon a rollover accident, called 911 and stayed with the family until they were out of the vehicle.
Families of motorcyclist, Maunu speak in court
Kulm was studying to become a trauma medic at the time of his death, his family members said. He was riding his motorcycle home because he planned to ride the next day in a memorial motorcycle ride for Aberdeen firefighter Matt Cler, who died in 2015.
"Carson, you are the only one responsible. I pray that someday I can forgive you, but that won't come without a change in your lifestyle," said Kulm's father, Mike Kulm.
Statements were then given by Maunu's family, who described him as a quiet, soft-spoken and giving person. Both his grandmother and grandfather said Maunu didn't want to leave the scene of the crash that night, but was told to do so by a friend.
One of the original charges against Maunu was hit and run because he left the crash before authorities responded.
In reviewing the facts of the case during a previous court hearing, Brown County State's Attorney Ernest Thompson said Maunu had been drinking alcohol the night of the crash. Maunu started drinking at a lake, then went to an Aberdeen Wings game, followed by the stock car races at the Brown County Speedway, drinking at both of those events, Thompson said.
Maunu's attorney Chad Locken added context. Maunu's day started at 5:45 a.m. when he started shingling and continued that work until noon. He then went to help a friend move before going to the lake where he had three beers in a four-hour period. Locken argued that by the time Maunu left the lake four hours later, he was likely sober. He then had four to five beers while attending the Wings game and the races. Given the time spent at both events, Locken argued Maunu's blood alcohol level was likely between 0.04 and 0.09. The legal limit is 0.08.
When he left the races, Thompson said, Maunu was driving north on 387th Avenue swerving between the northbound and southbound lanes. Kulm was southbound on the highway driving his motorcycle.
The crash was reported shortly after 11 p.m. near the intersection of 129th Street. That's about two miles north of the fairgrounds, the site of both the races and the hockey game.
In a brief statement in a packed courtroom with attendees standing in the back and along the wall, Maunu offered an apology.
"I just wanted to say to everyone in this courtroom I'm sorry," he said.
What prosecution, defense argued about sentence
Locken argued for a lighter sentence and noted that his client has been going through trauma and grief counseling since the crash. Thompson argued for a 15-year sentence to deter others. He estimated Maunu would be parole-eligible after serving 30% of his sentence, or four and a half years.
Judge Gregg Magera suspended five of the 15 years, provided Maunu completes the judge's recommendations, which include honest participation in a chemical dependency evaluation and completion of aftercare recommendations. Maunu's driver's license will also be revoked for 10 years starting at the time of his release from prison.
In handing down the sentence, Magera said he understands the peer pressure of a friend telling him to leave the scene of the wreck. But the day after the crash, Maunu went to work and denied involvement in the wreck and claimed he hit a forklift, Magera said. He said Maunu refused to let someone else drive his pickup after the races.
Maunu was ordered to pay $117 in court costs and $30,805 in restitution, of which nearly $26,000 is to cover funeral expenses.
This article originally appeared on Aberdeen News: Aberdeen man gets 15 years in prison for fatal crash with motorcycle